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Resilient Norway could frustrate Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland skipper Steven Davis (left) holds off Germany's Mesut Ozil
1 of 1

World Cup qualifier
Sky Sports 2, 7.45pm Sunday

Michael O'Neill started his five-year spell as Northern Ireland head coach with a 3-0 friendly defeat at home to Norway in February 2012 but he will be more hopeful of a positive result against the Norwegians in their Group C World Cup qualifier in Belfast.

Northern Ireland are favourites to get the win which would keep them second in the group but the draw looks a strong possibility and may be the best value bet.

Sectional leaders Germany have 12 points out of 12 and are on the way to winning the group but a fascinating battle is taking shape for second with Northern Ireland, Norway, Azerbaijan and Czech Republic all contending.

Northern Ireland climbed above Azerbaijan by beating them 4-0 at Windsor Park last November but most of the matches between the second-place challengers have been tight affairs and the Czechs' home matches against Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan finished goalless.

Another 0-0 draw cannot be ruled out because Norway are likely to show more resilience under their new manager, Lars Lagerback, who took Iceland to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016.

Lagerback will need to get his message across quickly because Norway are fifth in the group having lost three of their opening four matches.

However, the Norwegians still have home games against Northern Ireland, Azerbaijan and Czech Republic to come so there are opportunities for them to climb back into contention.

Lagerback likes to build his teams from the back and might consider a draw to be a satisfactory start.

However, Northern Ireland will need to concentrate at the back and be aware of the counter-attacking threat of pacy Norway striker Joshua King.

Northern Ireland's recent success has been built on a strong home record. They have won eight, drawn two and lost one of their last 11 home games and will look to replicate the intensity they showed against Azerbaijan in the autumn.

However, the high-tempo, direct style which so unsettled the Azeris is unlikely to be such a shock to the Norwegians, who are set to play a physical, British style of football under their new head coach.

Lagerback's Iceland loved to get the ball forward quickly and relied on making the most of corners, free kicks and long throws.

Norway's style could be similar to Northern Ireland's and the teams might cancel each other out.

A draw wouldn't be the worst outcome for either team and looks the likeliest result.

Recommendation
Draw
1pt 21-10 general

Bet on this match at Soccerbase.com


Team news
Northern Ireland
Josh Magennis (hamstring) is a doubt but Corry Evans (groin) is in contention for a place on the bench.

Norway
Alex Tettey and Per Ciljan Skjelbred have retired from international football, Vegard Forren is injured and Haitam Aleesami is suspended.

Key stat
Northern Ireland have lost one of their last 11 home games.

Northern Ireland have won eight, drawn two and lost one of their last 11 home games
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